Idaho's Gould says having Wal-Mart as a customer "has encouraged farmers to plant more of what's in demand." One farmer in the state saw a doubling of his asparagus sales and a 30 percent increase in organic grape sales over the past two years. Gould says the revitalization in farming is great for the region's economy. "We haven't had that kind of demand until recently," she says.
But Doug Hart, a pricing expert at the consulting firm BDO Seidman, questions how the giant retailer's growing presence will affect local markets. "Wal-Mart has already changed the marketing landscape [by buying so much from China]. Now they could change the landscape of farms," he says. With Wal-Mart as a megacustomer, Hart adds, the pressure will be on farmers to grow a smaller variety of crops and more of the one thing that the giant retailer wants. This, Hart says, could "absolutely" be another unfortunate symptom of the "Wal-Mart effect."
Corrected on 7/28/08: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Brian Girouard, a Capgemini vice president.